One of my favorite topics when discussing product development and the web is “visualization”. The ability to incorporate a visual element with new product offerings is paramount to its success IMHO. A visual element that increases the product’s functionality and/or enables the user to search/find/interact at deeper levels is a key success metric for me.
Having worked in the online financial news publishing space for some time, visualization of data (structured and unstructured) was of great interest to me. Creating the next version of stock charts and portfolio tools was a notable challenge.
Google Finance made some headway with their charting app and Nasdaq’s intra day charting product based on Adobe AIR shows great promise. AOL’s Money channel and beta version of their portfolio tool (via their purchase of Relegence) also could be a game changer and will hopefully elevate the static nature of the commoditized portfolio and charting apps in the marketplace today.
While reviewing innovative and smart design sites, I came across the site VisualComplexity and was intrigued with the social graphs and software that created visual representations of relationships, whether they be Facebook or MySpace profiles or the Japanese blogosphere (for example). Fascinating use of the design elements while incorporating large data sets and providing a visual cue in which to review relationships and dependencies.
Side note: I just downloaded Screengrab, a Firefox “add on” so I could place a picture or two for this entry. No luck with that specific option!